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Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 08, 2013
Keeping the momentum alive in New Delhi’s efforts to improve ties with Myanmar, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar will visit the neighbouring country next week along with senior parliamentarians.

The bilateral tour, coming close on the heels of Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s India tour last year, aims to strengthen cooperation between the two parliaments.

New Delhi is keen to see democracy taking its roots in Myanmar, which had for long been ruled by military dictators.

During the visit, Indian MPs will have an exclusive meeting with President Thein Sein apart from meeting Suu Kyi and other MPs of the Assembly of the Union of Myanmar.

Thein Sein is widely seen as a moderate and pro-reformist leader of Myanmar who is taking calibrated but encouraging steps towards accommodating democracy in the country.

While the BJP had earlier refused to accompany Kumar on her tour to Africa last month, forcing her to abandon the visits at the last moment, the principal opposition party has nominated Maneka Gandhi for the tour.

During her four day-long visit starting from February 12, Kumar will tour the new capital Naypyidaw and Mandalay—a sensitive area that hosts an Indian consulate.

She will also visit last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s mausoleum in Yangon. All Indian dignitaries including PM Manmohan Singh have paid tribute to the last Mughal emperor during their Myanmar visit.

Indian parliament had earlier held training programmes for Myanmar MPs. According to sources, both sides want to undertake more such training modules as the key neighbour wants to learn from India’s rich experience in parliamentary democracy.